Hawaii. A favorite vacation spot for many around the world and especially in the United States. You might ask what type of music you will find there? The music is classified as Polynesian and the music of Hawaii has had a large impact on the style of music in many other Polynesian Islands.

Whether you know it or not you have probably heard Hawaiian songs. When eating in Island themed restaurants you will more than likely hear Hawaiian music. While in Hawaiian restaurants you will probably hear music from artists such as Keola Beamer, Robi Kahakalau, and my personal favorite Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. If you are interested in some Hawaiian music I recommend listening to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

Also many times you will Hawaiian influenced music in Hollywood soundtracks. Just about any time you see a movie that is based around an island you will hear Hawaiian songs.

Hawaiian styles have not just made it Hollywood, many have become style that are known worldwide, such as slack-key guitar.

Slack-key Guitar

Slack-key Guitar is a fingerstyle technique of playing the guitar that refers to the loosing of the tuning key. The strings are loosened to create an open key tuning or a chord while played open. For those of you that don’t play the guitar, that means you can strum the guitar without put your hand anywhere on the fret board and it will sound good. If you are wanting try, some of the common Slack Key Tunings are G Major (D G D G B D), Open D (D A D F# A D) and Mauna Loa (C G D G B D)

Other styles of playing such as the Steel Guitar technique that has been widely used in modern country music.

Steel Guitar

The Steel Guitar refers to the style of playing not the materials that the guitar is made of. It is commonly played with a resonator guitar. It is played flat on the lap. For your fret board hand you use a round metal cylinder that goes around a finger and slide it up and down the neck to control the sound. It is commonly finger picked with the other hand.


What comes to mind when many people think of Hawaiian music is Hula dancers and the cute little guitar. What many people don’t know is that cute little guitar has a real name. The Ukulele. The Ukulele is a small four stringed instrument. Its standard tuning is G C E A. Which is not all that different from a guitar (It would be like putting a capo on the 5th fret of your guitar and playing the 4 high strings, E B G D).

It does come with one major difference. The G or the 4th string is tuned an octave higher. Which makes have its unique sound. The Ukulele fits Hawaiian music like the electric guitar fit hard rock, it was just meant to be. You will hard pressed when playing a Ukulele to make it play a sad sound because of its tuning (It has a distinct major tonality), which fits the music perfectly, seeing that the vast majority of Hawaiian music has an overall happy feel to it.

With the overall happy feel that the music gives also comes the general attitude of the Hawaiian Islands. When Listening to Hawaiian music you can’t help but just want to slow down a little and enjoy life a little more.

Granted Hawaiian music is not for everyone. You are not going to find too many blazing fast guitar solos, but if you are looking to widen your musical repertoire, Hawaiian Music is a good place to look to.